Landick elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Photo of Robert LandickBiochemistry professor Robert Landick has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of three faculty from the University of Wisconsin–Madison that make up the 2018 class of members.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy honors leaders in science, the arts, business and American life. Other members elected this year include former president Barack Obama, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and actor Tom Hanks. Alexander Hamilton, Charles Darwin and Martin Luther King Jr. are among those previously recognized by the Academy.

“It’s both humbling and an exceptional honor to be included among such an illustrious group of people,” Landick says. “The real accomplishment, though, belongs to the students and researchers who have worked with me over the years to figure out mechanisms of gene expression. Without their spectacular accomplishments, there would be little for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to recognize.”

Illustration of the bacterial expressome
The bacterial expressome. Image from Landick Lab.

Landick, also affiliated with the Department of Bacteriology, researches how DNA’s instructions are translated into proteins in cells, uncovering the dynamics of the molecules essential to life. In some of his recent work — published in Science in 2017 — he and his team solved the structure of the “expressome,” which is present in bacteria. It answered some long-standing questions about how exactly bacteria combine the processes of transcription and translation. These two processes are essential for life because they allow the genetic information stored in DNA to be deciphered into the proteins that form all living things.

Because the expressome is unique to bacteria, the structure opens avenues into antibiotic research. A drug that affects the expressome would leave the processes of transcription and translation in humans unaffected. He is also a science director at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, where he has contributed to developing new biofuel-producing strains of bacteria and yeast.